Interview with Nick Toy

I have been working with Nick to create the East Kent Warbow Society which aims to provide Longbow and Warbow shoots in East Kent. I also built Nick’s new website – Classic Bowyer

Tell people a little about yourself

I am a bowyer with a life-times fascination with shooting sports, history, military history and the bow and arrow.  Early in my life I focused more on guns and firearms but later the bow came to the fore.  I have also possibly even more of a lifetimes absorption in nature and the way of life of early man and ‘primitive’ cultures and  ways of life.  The bow and arrows are in essence an extremely simple weapon system possibly as much as 60,000 years old or  more and as such vastly predates industrial society and can be made straight from nature.  Therein lies much of its fascination for me.   I have other sides to my life including a solid education both formal and self- administered in science increasing my depth of understanding of how things function both in nature and in artifice. My work previously has been always in this broad sphere. Other things that make me tick and have occupied me are the outdoors in general, flight and flying and SCUBA diving. 

How did you get started making Bows?

It started a hobby.  I had not been into a shooting sport for a few years and wanted to reconnect.  I also wanted to do more physical sport, and archery seemed to answer both needs. I first learned archery way back in the mid 80s and like most people it was regular target archery.  I was always more seeking the traditional old ways of archery though right from the beginning, and wanted to shoot the way archers had shot for centuries and millennia.

I was not happy putting sights on bows and shooting only the very stylized form that is target archery.  I quickly moved to field archery and made the difficult transition to a more traditional way of shooting.  Then archery went onto the back-burner for a number of years for me due to work pressures etc.  When I returned to it, in the early 1990s it was then that I first had a go at carving my first bows from various woods to English and native American Indian forms. 

From there I was hooked! For 20 years I learned the craft and made for myself and for friends, and sold the very occasional bow.  In 2012 I decided to make English longbows to order and for general sale (first on Ebay lol) as supplementary income …rather than doing more overtime in a humdrum job! This rapidly expanded and started taking up more and more of my working time (allowing me to scale back employed work!).

Where do you research your bows?

I devour every book, article and scientific paper I can find on traditional bows and arrows from all cultures. Also the inevitable on-line research.  I have examined bows from the Mary Rose as well.  After that I then make some wood-shavings and experiment

What is your favourite bow?

The English longbow. More specifically the great English warbow …basically a very heavy powerful form of the longbow. And as for the wood it is made from, it has to be yew. It is true that no single wood is as good in many ways for making the English bow

Can people request their own designs?

In a word no. If someone commissions me to make them a bow, I design it and create it for them.  They can tell me every specification that they want and what they want to use it for.  I create the design that will do it best for them.

Do you just sell longbows?

Not just longbows.  My emphasis is very strongly the magnificent English tradition of archery, and consider myself very lucky to have been born into a culture with such a rich tradition and history of archery of its own. However, I do not consider that to be the be all and end all, other cultures also have rich traditions and I learn from them.

I make the English Longbow in all its forms …target bows, field (hunting) bows, warbows. Also bows for everyone from  high-powered bows to challenge the strong archer seeking high performance, through to bows for children from about 7 years old.

I base most of my designs for longbows on the medieval and Tudor longbow using full-compass tillering, bending right through the entire length of the stave.  This I have found the most efficient, but it needs to be configured and  used properly for the particular bow in question I may be making.  I also make bows jointed in the handle using two separate pieces of wood for each limb as well as take-down bows in which the two limbs can be separated for ease of storage and transport.

As well as the English longbow, I make flatbows with broad flat limbs.  I base these on ancient European and native American bow designs and create designs optimized for shooting efficiency.

I also sell arrows via a fine arrow-maker who works with me and who will supply spectacular sets of arrows to match any bow made by myself.

Obviously we are in this coronavirus lock-down situation right now, but when this passes and life can open up again, I will provide archery tuition again on a have-a-go basis. You have one hour of as many arrows as you can shoot with my instruction.  This is in the grounds of Quex Park in Birchington, Isle of Thanet in Kent where I have my workshop.

Where can people buy your items?

Direct from me to order at your desired specifications.  I also carry a selection of bows ‘off the peg’ available immediately.  My bows are also available at The Longbow Shop and also Perris Archery in Essex